(School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Katie Sokoler—Your Construction Paper Tears Can’t Hide Your Yayoi Kusama Grade Neurotic Underbelly
I deal with performatively happy people by searching for their neurotic underbelly. When watching Katie Sokoler’s Tampax Radiant commercial for the first time I quickly made the formal leap between the shapes of Sokoler’s street art and the shapes Yayoi Kusama has employed in the span of her career. By reading Sokoler’s work through Kusama, I was able to find what I was looking for: something potentially troubling and therefore deeply gratifying.
In an interview for her commercial Sokoler explains that her installations come “together when someone walks under it and [she] sort of almost [thinks] of it like they’re falling into this little trap.” Yayoi Kusama speaks of her infinity net paintings as coming “out of her hallucinations that she had from the time that she was a child, of these nets taking over the entire world that she inhabited.” Kusama’s move to paint the net of her hallucinations allows her to gain control over what seemed like a situation that would render her helpless. I posit that Sokoler’s move to use her artwork to trap innocent bystanders (and television watchers) suggests a need to exert a similar form of control over a similar uncontrollable situation (i.e. life lived in the public sphere). I am not saying that, like Kusama, Sokoler’s street art may one day not fulfill her desire to control the world thus prompting her to choose to permanently reside in a Hospital for the Mentally Ill. I am saying that if that were the case, I would identify with Katie Sokoler, her art and her Tampax Radiant commercial far more. Because if indeed the world is full of nets taking over and traps to fall into, it is a troubling world and one desperately in need of bright colors, all encompassing patters and performative enthusiasm.
Katie Sokoler: Color Me Katie
Tampax Radiant Tampons
Sokoler Tampax Print Ad:
Color Me Katie Blog: